Landisa: I am an Afrikaans white man. What I've learnt from couples therapy with my wife

2019-11-08 09:24
(Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash)

(Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash)

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It hits hard being someone’s something: defining yourself as a father and a husband and maybe even wishing and hoping to be great at it. Before you become these things to these vulnerable people, you are a bit of a blank canvas, the easy go lucky type – a chameleon.

But now you find yourself fighting over every interaction with that someone. Fighting like you would for breath. Controlling. Harsh. Pedantic. Pathetic.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you are really not needed. Dads are only important when they were never there. The mother and the child can do all the love and the growing without you. 

Male tricks won’t make you needed. You don’t get a seat at the table by just being insistent or assertive or aggressive. And you know this. You are acutely aware.

So, my wife and I have been in couples therapy. I imagined it would be like one of those setups which get written about in novels: you sit on a couch, and you talk about those first four years of your life. 

You go back every week. It continues for a decade until, I don’t know, the therapist retires or something. It is self-indulgent tissues and tears. Maybe you take some pills. Northern 'burbs parents raise them on that: if your kid is acting out, just up the dosage. 

But you fight, like dogs. There are days of nice sweet connection, and then a day of rage. And you feel such shame. For saying things, things you can’t even remember, things you didn’t really mean, but at that moment did.

And then you’re on the edge of the cliff at the valley of desolation, and your only choice is tissues and tears on the couch.

It’s hard. The couch is not a comfortable place to be. Anger, pain, vulnerability. The therapy can also be hippie as hell. Maybe if you just spoke to a friend for an hour a week about how toxic you can be it would go away by itself, but we don’t do that, do we? So we do this. 

And then the days of connection with you partner turn to weeks without a day of rage. Maybe it becomes months (the lady on the couch thinks it will). 

Your anger and shame and hurt and fear come like a visitor or a bird that comes and sits on the table. You see it, it came of its own accord. 

You can shoo it if you want, like you can explode if you want. But instead you share it and all you have to do is understand that, and make a choice, which becomes easier and easier.

A choice against rage, and a choice for connection.

* A pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the writer.

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Read more on:    relationship advice  |  couples

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